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Abosede George-Ogan, enabling capable women to decide, run and win elections

Abosede George-Ogan is a tri-sector leader with over 17 years’ experience working across the non-profit, private, and public sectors as a development professional. She began her career in development with ActionAid International Nigeria and coordinated Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability for Keystone Bank, FirstBank and Samsung Electronics West Africa, respectively.

Until her degree at Harvard Kennedy School as a Mid-career, MC/MPA Mason Fellow, Abosede was the Director, Strategy, Funding and Stakeholder Management at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) as part of a team creating jobs in Africa’s largest city by population, Lagos.

She Chairs the Gender sub-committee of the Crosscutting Technical Working Group of the Nigeria Medium Term National Development Plan Team and is a Vital Voice VV Engage fellow.

Abosede is on a new mission to increase women’s political representation in Nigeria as Co-founder, ElectHER, an end‐to-end women’s political advancement initiative, addressing the under-representation of women in elective office in Nigeria through behavioral change communication, skills development and funding mobilisation, with a goal to engage, encourage, equip and enable women to decide, run and win elections.

She has a degree in Political Science/Public Administration from Igbinedion University, an MSc in Communication for Innovation & Development from The University of Reading and a Master in Public Administration (MPA) from the Harvard Kennedy School where she was recognised with the Josephine Vernon awards as the most outstanding Edward S. Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Early Years

I grew up in a household with parents who were public servants. My Father served the Nigerian Air Force for 35 years and my mother was a teacher for 35 years. I saw them serve with passion and I like to say that service is in my DNA. The way my mum took children in and the sacrifices my father made encouraged me to want to do work that also serves people. In addition, growing up in a diverse household with a Muslim, Yoruba Father, and Igbo Christian Mother, meant I was detribalised from a very young age.

Your CSR involvements and results

My work in CSR/Sustainability gave me an opportunity to improve the health, education, and economic outcomes in over 30 States in Nigeria and five cities across West Africa. Working for three Banks and one electronics company, we achieved major impact through the initiatives.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDES:

1, Initiated, deployed and managed 14 Smart Schools worth $150,000 each and Digital Village projects worth about $1m each in partnership with 10 State Governments in Nigeria and four Education Ministries in Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

2, Set up a centre for ethical leadership at the Lagos Business School, Pan Atlantic University to provide thought leadership on the subject.

3, Provided Scholarships to ten students annually to attend the African Leadership Academy (ALA).

4, Through an endowment fund program in six Universities in Nigeria, offered Scholarships to 20 students and a research fellowship to a professor annually.

5, Initiated, identified, planned, and implemented CSR initiatives (a National Scholas scheme, setting up libraries and information technology centres) in partnership with the stakeholders across 30 States in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory.

Responsibility while at Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF).

LSETF provided me a good opportunity to move from private sector to public sector which I have always desired. It had an independent board of directors as an agency of Government, which meant that it could avoid the typical bureaucracy and the administration, and really committed to the job creation agenda. We created jobs by providing access to affordable loans to SME’s and micro enterprises, we also provided direct employability training for young people in high growth sectors, and supported the tech ecosystem with the infrastructure and funding support they needed to expand and facilitate the creation of new jobs.

Chairing the Gender sub-committee of the Crosscutting Technical Working Group of the Nigeria Medium Term National Development Plan Team

As the Chair of the Gender sub-committee of the Crosscutting TWG of the MTNDP 2025 – 2050, I have had the opportunity to work with truly remarkable and knowledgeable Nigerians to envision what a more socially inclusive and equitable Nigeria will look like. This is both in policy, programmes, and practicality. This work is still ongoing, and we are committed to ensuring we work on a plan that serves all Nigerians.

ElectHER

Elect-HER is a non-partisan progressive women’s political advancement organisation bridging inequality gaps in African democracy, by advocating for and enabling women’s leadership across appointive and elective office. Our mission is fulfilled through behavioural change communications; skills development, human capital mobilisation and campaign financing, with an end-goal to enable capable women competitively decide, run and win elections. We are on a mission to empower 1000 women to run for office and directly back ’35’ women by 2023.

We are motivated by the fact that evidence shows a direct correlation between the number of women in political leadership positions, and a high human development indicator. So, if we all want a more inclusive and developed Nigeria, it means we should all do what we can to get more women elected.

Why aren’t many women passionate about getting involved in politics?

There are genuine barriers that prevent women from getting into politics. Based on our in depth research which led to the design of the ElectHER 4E approach (Engage, Encourage, Equip and Enable). Some of the key barriers we identified were religious and cultural stereotypes, gap in critical skill areas like negotiation but most importantly limited financial capacity and the resources to campaign, provide alternative security, hire a good team that increases the chances of the women getting elected.

What do you desire for Nigeria? What change do you wish for?

I want a Nigeria that is inclusive, where everyone regardless of gender, generation, religion, or ethnicity has access to opportunities that allows them to live their best lives. I want to see a change in our political system; it should be more representative of people in the Nigerian society, so we need men, women and people with disabilities represented.

What burdens your heart about Nigeria?

The ongoing security challenges are of major concern. How do we improve our entire security infrastructure and adequately incentivise our security forces so we can do what the constitution requires which is to protect the lives of the Nigerian people? This is urgent.

Gaining admission into Harvard…your story

My Harvard story is one of grace, belief, and hope. I was really looking for an opportunity to do a programme that will improve my capacity to serve the public and a few people recommended the Mid-career Master in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School. When it was time to pay for it, I could not afford it and had to defer but the next year, God sent my way a generous individual donor in Dr. Akintoye Akindele, Chairman Platform Capital Group. This act of kindness further reinforced my hope in humanity and strengthened my belief in God and how our dreams can come through if we do not give up.

Aside the academic benefits, what lesson did going for the program and experience teach you?

What I learnt from this program was the importance of listening to the people you seek to serve. Regardless of how well-meaning you are as a policy maker; you will not be effective if you do not listen to the people you are making the policy for. I also learnt about the importance of building coalitions and getting stakeholders involved in pushing for any agenda, so it is more inclusive and sustainable. Basically, the programme exposes you to the importance of public service and how you must be a responsible public servant, that was exactly what I was looking for.

Hopeful about a female Nigerian president?

Absolutely! I think so many things are aligning in that regard. There is more awareness amongst Nigerians on the power of women as leaders and what they can achieve. With the work ElectHER is doing to close the gaps in equipping and enabling more women to get involved, the support structure to facilitate a woman emerging as President is slowly being built. However, it will take men as allies, the political party to give women a more supportive platform and a change in legislation to facilitate reserved seats so more women can win elective office positions and build the track record that is sometimes required.

Are you going to be involved in politics?

Yes, but for now, I think the work we are doing with ElectHER is more critical. I am just one person, but our goal is to make sure that women do not feel lonely in those positions and that will mean getting more women into those positions.

2023 is around the corner, what is on your mind?

ElectHER has launched Agender35, a comprehensive campaign where we will directly support 35 women to decide, run and win, we are also supporting the process of legislated reserved seats for women, and we are working to get Nigerian voters to pledge to ElectHER. As you know to do this, we need resources so ElectHER has launched a $10m fund which will support all the outlined activities leading up to 2023. All I know is, we will not be where we were in terms of women’s representation in 2019 when 2023 comes.

To the youths who have lost hope in Nigeria

We cannot afford to give up now, think about the next generation, what will we tell them? That we gave up? We cannot afford to do that, it is a costly price to pay. We must build resilience in desiring and working towards the new Nigeria we desire. I know it is not easy and every day, it seems like we are far, but we must keep organising and doing the work we are doing individually and collectively. We must leverage technology and digital media which we have at our disposal to strategically close gaps in the system and most importantly, we must get involved in politics as voters, volunteers, candidates, supporters and donors. Do not leave your future in the hands of a few. Go out, register to vote, support a candidate, and make sure you vote on election day. Sometimes, the little things can go a long way, keep the faith.

Your memories of 20/10/2020

I am sad and can never forget that day. Violence has no place in Nigeria and innocent people should not have to die fighting for what they believe in. It undermined the role of the citizen, but my hope is that as Nigerians, we will use the rage and anger to register as voters and come out to vote on election day.

Final words

The Nigeria we all desire is possible, but it will require all hands on deck. It will require forgiveness, hope, love, peace, and faith in the Nigerian dream. Let us not give up now, we cannot afford to give up now. Do what you can, where you are with what you have, let us build an oasis out of many ripples. I believe in you and me, I believe in a more inclusive Nigeria.

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